Do not “Kiss to Drink”!

Just travelling by trains is an adventure in India. For a short span of time you are thrown along with people whom you would never meet in your normal environment and are subject to opinions and interests which are alien to your own friends circle.

This one time while we were on our way back from a brief holiday at home, we shared our 3rd AC compartment with a French couple. Another travelling companion an enthusiastic young Indian seated next to them began to converse with them regarding their tour of India and international politics.

In the middle of the conversation, the indian took a swing from his 1 Litre water bottle. To us indians the usual mode of drinking from the bottle – pouring the water from the bottle into the mouth, without putting ones lips to the rim of the bottle – was standard practice and didn’t raise any eyebrows. However the foreigners picked up on it and questioned the youth “Why do you drink in that manner, without touching the bottle to your mouth?”

The youth replied “I would need to share the water with others and drinking straight from the bottle would not allow me to share it.” The French couple was really stunned – they said such a thought never occurs to them. They always get their individual bottles!

Some time ago Bisleri launched “kiss and drink” bottles. 500ml bottles, with a “kiss” cap to drink straight from the bottle.

The idea behind the Bisleri teams campaign was, “We have taken cue from a basic consumer behaviour that we do not like to share water with someone who has touched the bottle to his/her mouth. The campaign takes into consideration this behaviour and asks the consumer to buy their own bottle and drink straight from the bottle (kiss)”.

They expected to drive a social change by getting the consumers to buy their own bottle to be able to “kiss and drink”. On the flip side they expected the consumers to not share their bottle of water. While they are correct in the assumption that we do not like to share bottles which have been drunk from straight, in a country that buys everything family size, and sharing is the first value any child learns, I wonder if they were way off the mark in their consumer analysis.

Considering that the “kiss” bottles are no longer available in stores, and the marketing campaign has died out I think it would be an accurate conclusion to arrive at.

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System? Process? Whazzat?

“A System comprises of Machine, Process and People.” Mr. R

Recently we visited a famed bakery to buy some snacks. It was one of the larger outlets of the bakery and since we went there after office, we had our bags with us. We got stopped at the entrance for a security check and had to deposit our bags at the baggage counter.

The bakery had a very different style of billing. Unlike other bakeries where the food counter first gives the customer the bill for their items, and the customer is able to collect the items once the bill is paid at the cash counter; here the food counter would pack the food items, stick barcode labels on the parcels, and the customer could directly take the items to the cash counter, get it billed and walk out. They had given so much thought to their process, that they had even priced all the products in multiples of 5 and kept chocolates worth Rs 5 at the cash counter to be returned to any customer who didn’t have the requisite change.

We got our items packed and went to the cash counter for billing. There were two people at the billing counter – one was scanning the bar code and the other was packing the individual parcels into a bag. The packing person was in such a hurry that he picked up one parcel and put it into the bag even before the bar code was scanned. Neither the scanning person nor the packing person bother to notice that there were 3 parcels which were packed whereas the bill was only for 2 items. Our bill was reduced by half since they missed to bill the most expensive item of the lot.

Overall for the bakery the value of that item may have been nominal, but my point is that a system, an organisation is all about people people people. One may have the best machinery, the best processes – but in the end of the day its people who are going to run it. One may not have the best processes or machinery but may have an efficient system because the people running the system know what are the critical aspects and focus on it. How effectively the system or the organisation runs therefore comes down to intangible terms like “culture” or the indefinable “Toyota Way.” Its all about how you handle your people.